A tasty dish at a department store eatery? That’s just one of five unexpected culinary pleasures that dining critic Joseph Hayes found hiding in plain sight.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
Layers of deep chocolate cake, buttermilk mousse, milk chocolate frosting and dark ganache icing, hand-built by the pastry chefs at The Peabody Orlando, make for one of the most decadent diet-busters in town. The rest of the menu ain’t bad, either—and you can get it 24 hours a day. 9801 International Drive, Orlando. peabodyorlando.com/dining/B-Line
Seafood Hush Pups
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
After 10 p.m., the normally expensive parking at Universal’s CityWalk is free, giving you two hours to enjoy these little treats without sticker shock. Juicy bits of shrimp and flaky white fish are surrounded by a light corn batter and deep-fried. You’ll try to eat them in bites but don’t bother because these are pop-in-the-mouth delights. 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando. bubbagump.com
Shrimp and Grits
Like Russian nesting dolls, the gem of Café Bistro is hidden inside Nordstrom at The Florida Mall. Remarkably overlooked, the locally sourced, sustainable and organic menu includes this presentation of seared wild jumbo shrimp and andouille sausage over stone ground grits with smoked gouda, poblano peppers and a spicy Creole sauce. 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando. 407-888-7889.
Wild Mushroom Salad
It doesn’t sound very impressive: mushrooms served over arugula with a vinaigrette dressing and cheese. But dished out by the freshest addition to the Hannibal Square food scene, the peppery greens, tart vinegar and salty shaved parmesan enlivening a double-earthy combination of truffle oil and chewy mushrooms is as primal and satisfying as a successful day foraging in deep woods. 535 W. New England Ave., Winter Park. freshcafe-wp.com
Hannibal’s on the Square
A Middle Eastern-spiced patty on a bun, made by a classically trained French chef and served in an urban bistro setting might seem an odd combination. But Vincent Gagliano, who owns Hannibal’s and next-door neighbor Chez Vincent, turns out a burger equal to any Parisian specialty. The rustic thick lamb, touched with flavors of Morocco, surrounds a wedge of molten blue cheese that oozes through the buttered bun as you eat. This l’agneau hache (chopped lamb) would make anyone a burger-o-phile. 511 W. New England Ave., Winter Park. hannibalslounge.com